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AEU LEAD Blog
First Impressions Matter – Make Them Count
Feb 10, 2020 - Joe White, Director, AEU LEAD

A great deal has been discovered about the human mind over the past few decades. Made possible through advancements in brain imaging, neuroscientists have been able to successfully demonstrate that humans rely heavily on intuition and instinct as the basis for most decisions and subsequent actions. This finding is in direct opposition to previous theories that suggested human decision-making was purely rational and logic-based. As it turns out, our ability to process circumstances in our surrounding environment and to respond without hesitation can take place in fractions of a second.

The science of intuition and instinct is not new. It has a great deal to do with why humans have survived throughout the ages. Cavemen likely had an automatic and intuitive response when encountering a lion in the tallgrass. In all probability, there was very little thinking taking place once the threat was perceived. The response was most likely fight or flight-oriented and those surviving the encounter learned from the experience. A modern-day equivalent could involve the split-second reaction of a driver who enters an intersection and is confronted with an approaching vehicle that just ran a red light. The steering, braking, and evasive maneuvers will be 100% automatic, intuitive, and instinctive.

 

Nice to Meet You
Intuition and instinct are synonymous with speed and efficiency. Whereas the processing of information related to life or death can lead to split-second decisions, that which is used to form initial opinions of other individuals takes a bit longer. How much so? An entire seven seconds. That’s right – according to the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, an impression is made within seven seconds of meeting someone for the first time. The importance of this ever-so-brief window of opportunity can’t be overstated. While impressions can shift over time, research has consistently shown the ability to do so is difficult.

As a supervisor within blue collar or other labor-intensive industries, you’ve likely seen your share of employees coming and going. Annual turnover rates for some industrial sectors exceed 50%, which means you have not only a great opportunity to learn and apply skills needed to make a favorable first impression, but also to become really good at it. It’s also important to note for many employees, you are their point of connection to the company. If their impression of you is favorable, it benefits the employee, you, and the company. If unfavorable, all parties suffer accordingly as well. Here are some suggestions for consideration in making first impressions matter.

 

Make Employees Feel Welcomed
It’s basic human relations 101. If you don’t feel welcomed, you’re probably not going to stick around. Neither will your employees. A smile, firm handshake, warm greeting, and hospitable gestures go a long way towards making the best of your first interactions with direct reports. Help new hires feel at ease and treat them as if they are the valued employees you want them to become.

 

Give Them Your Undivided Attention
For most supervisors, time is the tail that consistently wags the dog. While we would like to think we have exclusive control over our calendars and prefer the ability to plan our days in advance, that’s seldom the case and is an unfortunate reality of life on the front line. If not constantly putting out fires, we’re running down sources of smoke, so to speak, and end up reacting to a steady stream of unexpected events on a routine basis.

When it comes to first interactions with new hires, don’t jeopardize outcomes by trying to multitask. If you don’t have the time needed to give your full and undivided attention to your new hire, reschedule it for a later time or date. While this isn’t without consequences, it does speak to the importance of the interaction. It’s a priority for you and you don’t want to distract from the value or importance of it.

 

Make Them Feel Important
Your success (or failure) as a supervisor is heavily determined by those working for you. Whereas wage roll employees are assessed based on technical skill and performance as an individual contributor, that’s not the case for those with direct reports. To succeed, supervisors must achieve performance outcomes through others. It’s a very subtle but important difference.

When interacting with new employees, make them feel important. Not simply because you should, but because they are. Challenges involving skilled labor consistently ranks among the most concerning pain points expressed by organizations across a wide spectrum of industries. Showing value and appreciation for a new hire’s time and interest in joining your organization – and in contributing to business outcomes – is a foremost responsibility.

 

Give Them Clarity
A common complaint expressed by many new hires involves missing information needed to make connections during onboarding. Map out the process and make certain new hires know where they are at any given point in time. Also, help them understand requirements to advance forward and actions to take if they get lost along the way.

As for cultural orientations, supervisors play a key role in helping new employees understand what they should and shouldn’t do. As an example, if safety is a condition of employment, it needs to be clearly conveyed from the onset. As a word of caution, actions and behaviors speak louder than words. If you communicate a high standard for safety, make certain your crew reflects the sort of behaviors you indicated you expect to see in them.

 

Reinforce Their Decision to Join Your Organization
The labor market is challenging. Unemployment rates are at a 50-year low and finding skilled labor has never been more difficult. When you do have the opportunity to onboard a new employee, assume the best from the onset. Make the experience positive and take every opportunity available to create a favorable and lasting first impression.

 
The opinions and comments expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of ALMA, The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. or AmWINS. None of the aforementioned parties or the authors are responsible for any inaccuracy of content or for any loss or damages incurred by any party as a result of reliance on information contained in this article. Content may not be published or reproduced without the written consent of the authors. Prior articles may not be updated for accuracy as pertinent information changes over time. The AEU LEAD blog is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.
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